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M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . .

Ant 62 (2012) 3747 37

Miroslav Vasilev
Museum of National Crafts Troyan


Abstract: the article looks at the information Herodotus provides
about the founder of the Argead dynasty Perdiccas. It accentuates
three major problems. First, it focuses on the chronology of the
events under discussion, as the conclusion which has been arri-
ved at places them in the first half or in the middle of the 7th c.
BC. Later it is accepted that the founder of the dynasty bore the
name of Perdiccas a name mentioned by Herodotus. As far as
Archelaus and Caranus as well as Coenus and Tyrimmas menti-
oned in primary sources, are concerned, they are defined as non-
historical characters included for political reasons in the Argead
king list. Thirdly, it explores the route the three brothers probab-
ly followed. Herodotus mentioning Illyria is also, for some poli-
tical reasons, present here, intending to leave the reader with the
impression that the ruling dynasty of the Argeadae led their roots
from Argos in Pelopponese whereas it is possible that Perdiccas
and his brothers were actually from Argos in Orestis. This is the
precise point from which they reached the kingdom with the ca-
pital city Lebaea which might be identical to the village
situated in Elimea. From here, running away from the ruler of
Lebaea they crossed Haliacmon and reached the mount of Ber-
mium where they found the Macedonian kingdom. Lastly, the
conclusion is reached that despite the political propaganda and
folklore elements in it, the legend Herodotus tells is historical at
the core and relates to the earliest history of the Argeadae, their
kingdom and, to a certain extent, to the people they ruled over.

In trying to reconstruct the events which led to the founding
of the Argead kingdom, modern researchers are confronted with
enormous difficulties. A considerable proportion of the sources
for the events of the period is based on traditions of mythographi-
cal rather than historical nature. Of course, some of them do con-
tain historical facts, but scarce, as a rule, providing no correct
chronological, geographical and historical information. This is
due both to the late records of the legends and also to the fact that
the information in question derived from the Macedonian royal
court, and so was meant to serve as propaganda; for this reason
the authenticity of part of the legends may be doubted. Even so,
however, they are of extremely high value, for the reason that
they are the only literary sources imparting knowledge on the
foundation of the Argead Kingdom.
38 M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747

There are extant some ten records of traditions, which have
more differences than similarities. The disparities are striking
and not only in regard to geographical and chronological data;
there is not even unanimity on the name of the dynastys founder.
This may be due not so much to the chronological remoteness of
the events under consideration or the ignorance of the aforesaid
traditions but rather to the influence of particular transitory politi-
cal situations which, depending on the circumstances, needed ei-
ther not such a big change or a more radical one. Herodotus tra-
dition therefore will be taken as a base and starting point. This ac-
count certainly also carries political burdens, but they can be attri-
buted primarily to the attempt to trace the alleged Peloponnesian
ancestry of the dynasty. This, along with the fact that Herodotus
account is chronologically the earliest tradition, may mean that it
is the most reliable source of all the traditions related to the origin
of the Argeadae, and thus to the earliest history of their kingdom.
Here is what Herodotus wrote on this matter:

, ,
. , -
, , -
: -
, : ,
, -
: -
. -
. -
, ,
, . -
, :
, ,
, -
, ,
, .

*I am most grateful to professor Miltiades Hatzopoulos for his helpful
comments on an earlier version of this paper. I am also indebted to my friend
and colleague Dr. Stephen OConnor who kindly agreed to make revision of the
English version of the text.
Hdt. 8, 137.1-139.1 (Macan).
M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747 39

. , -
: ,

, ,
, .
. ,
. , ,
: -
, , ,
, ,
To serve the objectives of this article, the adduced passage
should be thoroughly considered in its chronological, geographi-
cal and historical aspects. Following Herodotus exposition the
researcher will, right at the beginning of the text, run across a se-
ries of problems widely discussed in the secondary literature. One
of these is of purely chronological nature: Approximately when
did the Argeadae establish themselves in the Macedonian lands
and, hence, when did they begin their rule over the Macedones? A
precise answer to this question appears impossible at present.
There are, however, data in the available source base providing
useful and relatively precise chronological information on the ear-
ly Argeadae.
On the other hand, the records of the ancient au-
thors often differ both as regards the lengths of reigns of particu-
lar kings, and the starting date of the rule of the dynasty founder.
In addition, Caranus is taken as the founder of the Argead King-
dom in all the chronologies available to us, and Coenus and Ty-
rimmas are usually mentioned as his successors. It is generally
considered that Caranus, Coenus, and Tyrimmas are non-histori-
cal persons added to the List of Kings for political reasons. If so,
the period, in which these rulers are said to have reigned (between
73 and 103 years), should be regarded as fictional, and the date of
the founding of the Argead Kingdom ought to be moved forward
in time.
In this context we should admit that the events described

For a detailed review of the sources related to the chronology of the early
Argeadae see Dascalakis (1965: 114-132). Also see the chronological data of
the relevant ancient authors in Belochs work (1923: 50-51).
According to the available chronological works, the beginning of Cara-
nus rule varies within the short period from the end of the 9
c. BC up to the
40 M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747

by Herodotus must have taken place around 700 BC. Yet, even
this dating seems uncertain, too, and may need to undergo consi-
derable corrections. This inference is imposed by the fact that the
indicated years of rule of Perdiccas and his successors up to
Amyntas I are obtained from the very same late authors, who also
write about Caranus, Coenus and Tyrimmas; i.e. the data are unre-
liable and they might have been subsequently added at the discre-
tion of some of these later authors. In support of this observation
we can also point out the lack of any chronological data in the
works of Herodotus and Thucydides regarding this problem. They
either did not dispose of such information or they did not consider
it necessary to present it to the reader. Yet, if we follow usual
practice and take a period of thirty years per generation, we will
arrive at the reasonable conclusion that the founding, and the as-
cent, of the Argead Kingdom should be referred to the first half or
the middle of the 7
century BC.
The second issue to consider is related to the name of the
dynasty founder. Herodotus is the only ancient author who names
Perdiccas as the first Argead king, and thus also as founder of the
Argead Kingdom. In spite of this, his account is of special merit
for at least four major reasons. Firstly, as Herodotus himself men-
tions, he obtained his information on the early history of the Dy-
nasty from the Macedones themselves.
This almost legendary
statement might represent the official version of the origin of the
royal family. This presumption is in a way confirmed by the fact
that Herodotus does not comment on the authenticity of the tradi-
tion, an uncommon occurrence in his work. He might possibly
have obtained his information personally from Alexander the
Philhellene or from some other member of the Dynasty. Secondly,
there is no reason for denying the historicity of the kings listed by
Herodotus, for the simple reason that here it is most likely a ques-
tion of the tracing of lineage memory. This idea finds support in
the fact that the name Perdiccas is of purely Macedonian origin.
Thirdly, we can assert with a high degree of certainty that Thucy-
dides adopted the same genealogy as Herodotus. Although he
does not name the founder of the dynasty, he refers to the Mace-
donian kings as successors of Temenus
, and states that there have
been eight ancestors of Archelaus
a number which coincides

beginning of the 8
c. BC; in almost all versions it is dated before the First
Olympic Games (776 BC). The early dating is most likely a result of the need to
fix some chronological frames for Caranus, Coenus and Tyrimmas reigns, as
well as of attempts by the relevant authors to present the Argead Kingdom as
more ancient than it really was.
Hdt. 5, 22.1.
Thuc. 2, 99.3.
Thuc. 2, 100.2.
M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747 41

with the account of Herodotus. Finally, Herodotus account is
chronologically the earliest, and hence the most reliable one, tak-
ing into consideration the afore-mentioned facts. These state-
ments, along with the fact that the other traditions are relatively
later, and the name Perdiccas was moved to a lower position for
political reasons, can only lead to the conclusion that the founder
of the dynasty bore the Macedonian name Perdiccas.
As for Archelaus and Caranus, regarded with good reason
by modern researchers as mythological persons, they must have
been added to the List of Kings much later, and obviously for po-
litical reasons. Chronologically the appearance of Archelaus in
the sources precedes that of Caranus. The earliest mention of him
is found in Euripides Archelaus, (which is not extant; the part re-
lating to the origin of the dynasty is preserved in Hyginus).
the author asserts that Archelaus, son of Temenus, driven away by
his brothers, arrived in Macedonia after wandering for some time,
where he led by a goat founded the city of Aegae. The drama
was staged in 408/407 BC in Macedonia
, where Euripides lived
for a year and a half at the court of king Archelaus. This king,
known for his philhellenism, patronized a number of erudite Hel-
lenes. It is no wonder therefore, that Euripides replaced the name
of the founder of the dynasty with the name of king Archelaus as
a sign of honour and gratitude to his benefactor. This novelty was
apparently viewed with suspicion already in Antiquity, as ex-
cept for a dialogue of Dio Chrysostom
there is no mention of
Archelaus in the multitude of later traditions, presumably because
he was supposed to have been a product of Euripides attempt to
appeal to the Macedonian king.
For different although unclear reasons, Caranus was also
added to the List of Kings, on political grounds.
There are vari-
ous hypotheses both regarding the date of the interpolation, and
also the motives for the inclusion of Caranus and his supposed
successors, Coenus and Tyrimmas, into the List of Kings. Most
plausible appears to be Greenwalts hypothesis, according to
which Caranus, Coenus and Tyrimmas were presumably added to
the List of Kings for the purpose of propaganda in the period im-
mediately after the death of Archelaus (400/399 BC), when a vio-

Hyginus Fab. 219.
For references to the dating of the play and to the place of its staging, see
Harder (1985: 125-127).
Dio.Chrysost. Orat. 4, 70-72.
Caranus is mentioned by FGrH 115 F 393; FGrH 135-6 F 14; Euseb.
Chron. 1, p.227 = Diod 7, 15; Just. 7, 1.7-12; Paus. 9, 40.8; Plut. Alex. 2, 1; Sol.
9, 12; Satyros FGrH 631 F.1; Schol. Clem. Alex. Protr. 2, 11; Syncel. 373; 498-
499 (Dindorf); Const. Porphyr. Peri Thematon 2, 22.
42 M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747

lent struggle for the Macedonian throne was being waged between
the three branches of the dynasty.
A more important considera-
tion seems to be the fact that, no matter which of the adduced hy-
potheses one takes as most plausible, it will by all means confirm
the inference that Caranus cannot be accepted as founder of the
Argead dynasty.
The third problem to be taken into consideration concerns
the route followed by Perdiccas and his brothers. According to
Herodotus, the first leg implied a shift from Illyria to Upper Ma-
cedonia and settlement in the city of Lebaea, where the brothers,
receiving salaries, served the local ruler.
This itinerary was ob-
viously based on three major points: Illyria, Upper Macedonia,
and its city Lebaea. These points cannot be taken as a reliable ge-
ographical guide to the reconstruction of the events, since the
term Upper Macedonia seems too broad, whereas Herodotus
mention of the city of Lebaea is a hapax in the ancient sources.
Apart from this, if the Argeadae really came from Orestis
then for purely geographical reasons Perdiccas residence in
Illyria would turn out to be fictional. Illyria was most probably
interpolated into the text for political reasons: geographically vie-
wed (for this Macedonian king was attempting to prove his Pelo-
ponnesian provenance, being born in Orestis) it would be most
convenient if the founder of the dynasty came from Illyria; it does

Greenwalt (1985: 43-49).
Unlike Herodotus, who does not mention the name of the king, some la-
ter authors report a ruler Cisseus (Hyginus Fab. 219; Paus. 9, 40.8). The name
Cisseus was mentioned for the first time by Euripides, i.e. several decades after
Herodotus. And since both of the authors tell the official Macedonian version of
the origin of the Argeadae, an inference seems to prevail that Euripides must
have used another, but certainly likewise official tradition, or that he just revi-
sed the old one adding here Cisseus. The second presumption seems more plau-
sible, not merely because of Euripides modifications related to the name of the
founder of the dynasty, but also because of the probability that the author may
have drawn the name from the Iliad (Hammond, Griffith 1979: 10), where Cis-
seus is mentioned (Hom. Il. 11.223).
App. Syr. 63: .
The Argeadae are referred to as kings, i. e. dynasty, in App. Mac. 2; Paus. 7,
8.9 and Plut. Alex.fort. 1, 10. The Argeadae are also mentioned by Strabo 7, fr.
11, 20 (Meineke) and Stephanus of Byzantium (), who do not specify
whether they are writing of a dynasty or an ethnos. The discovery of the great
stele of the Kytenians (see the inscription in Bousquet 1988: 14-16), where
the Argeadae are again referred to as kings, confirmed that the available written
evidence concerned a dynasty named Argeadae, and not a supposed ethnos with
this name. Moreover, it is obvious from this inscription that these Argeadae are
the same dynasty which Herodotus (8, 137.1; 138.2) and Thucydides (2, 99.3)
defined as Temenidae (lines 40-42: []
M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747 43

not make any radical changes in respect of his arrival from west,
nor does it mention Orestis, which had already become fairly in-
convenient, though not yet forgotten.
Based on the accounts of Herodotus and Appian we can pre-
sume that the Argeadae left their native land Orestis leading an
unknown number of people to Upper Macedonia, which was sup-
posed by Herodotus to cover the area of the Pierian Mountains,
north of Mt. Olympus.
The cause for the departure, as well as
the ethnic origin of the people led by the Argeadae, are not
known. Several different scenarios appear possible:
1. The Argeadae and their Macedonian followers left the
land under pressure from the Orestae. This assumption is chrono-
logically consistent, as the first localization of the Orestae in the
area of Orestis by Hecataeus
is probably to be dated to the se-
cond half of the 6
c. BC, and the reign of the founder of the Ar-
gead dynasty is dated to the first half of the 7
c. BC. So the Ma-
cedones could possibly have peopled down in the Orestis prior to
the Orestae, before later being driven away by them.
2. The Argeadae may have led Orestae, not Macedones. In
this case the abandonment of Orestis could hardly have been rela-
ted to pressure from outside; rather, it might have been the result
of overpopulation or, still more likely, of some internecine con-
flicts. What seems interesting in this scenario is that the Orestae
were not Macedones Hecataeus defined them as Molossi
, and
Strabo, reflecting the later state of affairs, described them as Epi-
Hatzopoulos adopts this reconstruction of events: for him,
a considerable number of Orestae left their settlements under the
leadership of the Argeadae, heading for Lebaea and further on
to Lower Macedonia, mingling with the local Macedones on their
way. According to Hatzopoulos, the Macedones are supposed to
have spoken Aeolic, whereas the Orestae spoke some northwest-
Greek dialect; therefore the resulting mixture between the two
ethne seems to provide a satisfactory explanation for the mixed
character of the Macedonian dialect and calendar.
It is, in fact,
not very important for the issue at hand here, whether the Ar-
geadae were leading Orestae or Macedones. More important is the
fact that we can positively assert that the dynasty descends from

For what exactly Herodotus idea of Upper Macedonia covered, see
Rosen (1978: 12-13); Zahrnt (1984: 346-347, 352-353) and Hatzopoulos (2003:
FGrH 1 F107.
FGrH 1 F107: .
Strabo 7, 7.8; 9, 5.11.
Hatzopoulos (2003: 216-218).
44 M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747

There has been a lot of speculation in modern scholarship
on Herodotus exact idea of Upper Macedonia and on the locali-
zation of Lebaea. Because of the lacunose nature of our sources,
however, the location of the city remained unknown for a long
time. It is only recently, after the discovery of an inscription from
the sanctuary of Leucopetra, that an opportunity has arisen for the
localization of Lebaea. According to this inscription (to be dated
to AD 252-253), Aurelius Rufus from , a village in Elimea,
bestowed on the sanctuary a slave of his, along with her daugh-
There is a considerable phonetic likeness between the name
of the village and the polis of mentioned by Hero-
dotus, which led to some researchers identifying both settlements
and thus localizing Lebaea in the western part of Pieria
or even
more precisely, in the foothills of the Pierian Mountains, but not
in Pieria itself, since this would be inconsistent with Herodotus.

An additional argument supporting this supposition could be He-
rodotus presumption that the adduced lands lay in Upper Mace-
, which, for him, corresponded to the mountains rising
north of Mt. Olympus. Considering the location of and the
similarity of the names, the identification of the two settlements
appears logical.
The reconstruction of the second part of the peregrination
of the three brothers is also based on three main points: an un-
known river, the Gardens of Midas, and Mt. Bermium. Here, too,
as in the first part, these basic points, except Mt. Bermium, seem
uncertain and cannot serve as a precise geographic guide. The ri-
ver, not identified by Herodotus, is usually taken to be the Haliac-
mon. In fact, this presumption seems very reasonable, since the
latter is deep enough to be related to the flood described by Hero-
dotus. The presumption seems all the more reasonable given that
the Haliacmon flows through Orestis, the presumable native land
of the Argeadae, and through Elimea, where Lebaea may possibly
be located.
It is really odd that Herodotus fails to specify this notable
river in his work. This might either be owing to his reluctance to
name it, or to the fact that another, less significant river was
meant, which he did not find necessary to mention.

Yet, this pre-
sumption also raises well-founded doubts. According to Herodo-
tus, even in his lifetime the Argeadae were making sacrificial of-
ferings to the river which had saved the three brothers, i.e. even

Petsas, Hatzopoulos, Gounaropoulou, Lucrce and Paschidis (2000: 166
n. 106. See also 89-90 n. 12).
Hammond (1989: 3).
Hatzopoulos (2003: 211).
Hdt. 7, 128. 1; 7, 173. 4.
M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747 45

though small, the river must have been extremely important to the
members of the dynasty. That is why it is so amazing here, that its
name is not indicated by Herodotus. It should be observed, how-
ever, that, if the Argeadae really did come from the city of Argos
in Orestis, they will have inevitably shown some favour towards
the Haliacmon which flowed through their land. And this favour,
no matter what exactly it is, probably underlies the legend told by
It is hard to specify where precisely the three brothers cros-
sed the Haliacmon. Building on the presumption that and
referred to one and the same settlement, Hatzopoulos arri-
ves at the conclusion that they passed the river somewhere near
Polymylos, and that their route from there led through the Kasta-
nian Gorge and Leucopetra to the Gardens of Midas.
His pre-
sumption appears logical; the itinerary he describes matches quite
well with the geographical characteristics of the area.
The localization of the second basic spot, the Gardens of

seems in a way easier, thanks to Herodotus remark that
they must be situated somewhere close to Mt. Bermium. They are
usually localized east or southeast of Mt. Bermium
but not to the
west, where the almost arid Eordaea Plateau stands. No doubt,
this part of the tradition is related to the early expansion of the
Argeadae, since the territories east/southeast of Mt. Bermium we-
re among the earliest conquests of the dynasty.
From these lands,
enclosed between the lower courses of the rivers Ludias and Hali-
acmon, the Argeadae conquered .
After mentioning that Perdiccas and his brothers conquered
Macedonia, Herodotus lists the names of the Argead kings known
to him and this, in fact, is how his excursus on the early history of
the dynasty ends. Unfortunately, he makes no mention of how and
with whose assistance the Argeadae managed to come to power,
nor does he refer to the capture of Aegae and their subsequent ex-
pansion. The lack of information on Perdiccas ascension to the
throne may be in some way related to a forcible seizure of power
with alien, non-Macedonian, assistance or to the ousting from po-
wer of some local Macedonian dynasty. As to the seizure of Ae-
gae and the subsequent expansion of the Argeadae, the lack of in-
formation on this issue must be first and foremost due to the fact

Hatzopoulos (2003: 212).
As a whole the differences in the localization of Midas gardens seem in-
significant. Rosen (1978: 13) localizes them on the southern slopes of Mt. Ber-
mium, Borza (1992: 81) places them somewhere close to Mieza, and Hatzopou-
los (2003: 212) in the surroundings of Beroea.
For this issue see Vasilev (2011: 93-96).
46 M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747

that these events seem to be outside Herodotus narrative aims
here to prove that Alexander the Philhellene and his ancestors
had Hellenic origins.

To what extent does Herodotus record reflect real events?
It has been already mentioned that the Temenid origin of the dy-
nasty is supposedly nothing but a political propaganda, whereas
the events taking place under the king of Lebaea include many
folkloric elements.
There must certainly be a historical core as
well, however, concerning the wanderings of the Argeadae, as
well as the people following them. The tradition of the three bro-
thers also seems very interesting. Scholars have conjectured that
these may have founded three separate dynasties: Gauanes the
Elimiot, Aeropos the Lyncestid, and Perdiccas the Macedonian.
This hypothesis seems to find confirmation in Thucydides narra-
tive: for unknown reasons, ethnic or political, he counts the Lyn-
cestae and the Elimiotae among the Macedones.
On the other
hand, the royal family of the Lyncestae proclaimed their prove-
nance from the Corinthian Bacchiads.
Of course, this, too, was
political propaganda, but the claim reflects attempts to differentia-
te between the two dynasties, and also the unwillingness of the
Lyncestaen kings to identify themselves with the Argeadae. It is
obviously hard to provide satisfactory answers to these issues.
More important, however, is the fact that, in spite of the existing
folkloric elements and political propaganda, Herodotus account
represents a unique source of valuable information on the earliest
history of the Argeadae, their kingdom, and even on the people
they ruled.

The purpose of the whole excursus is certainly to prove the Hellenic ori-
gins of the dynasty; this is evidenced by Herodotus statment at 5, 22.1: -
, ,

On this issue see Kleinknecht (1966: 134-146). See also Greenwalt
(1986: 120-122) who assumes, that in this myth which has elements suppo-
sedly borrowed from the Thracian Pieres, the Argeadae placed an insurmounta-
ble obstacle to any pretenders to the throne who were not members of the ruling
Hammond, Griffith (1979: 30); Borza (1992: 84).
Thuc. 2, 99.2. See Vasilev (2011: 103-104)
Strabo 7, 7.8.
M. Vasilev, Herodotus VIII. 137139 . . . Ant 62 (2012) 3747 47

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